Manticore - Elements - 2022
“... A little gem from Sweden ...”
Finally, I can find time again to write a review for my progVisions project. Of course, it remains a hobby project that does not provide a living, so graphic and web design jobs must be done first.
A friend drew my attention to a little Prog diamond from Sweden. This progressive rock band is aptly named Manticore and "Elements" is already their third album after their debut album "Time To Fly" (1994) and its successor "Next Step: Flight 19" (2018). The band, which at one point even counted well-known keyboardist Pär Lindh among its members, makes music that leans heavily on the golden era of 1970s progressive rock bands. Manticore takes pride in being a part of the classic progressive rock world with nothing other than total respect and joy.
Göran Holmberg - bass, Taurus bass pedals, lead vocals; Jon Sundberg - lead vocals, keyboards, Mellotron, percussion; Ulf Holberg - guitars, keyboards, Mellotron, backing vocals; Putte Saavedra - drums, percussion
Kjell Haraldsson - keyboards on "The Wood"
Jonas Dominique - string arrangement on "Open Up Your Eyes"
This beautiful album opens with the fine track "The Wood" (8:25) which was written by Kjell Haraldsson. Today, he is part of the band Hasse Fröberg Musical Companion (HFMC). But during the period 1996-98, Kjell was a full member of Manticore. The band lets you go straight back in time to the glory days of our beloved progressive rock (the 1970s). The lovely sounds of the Hammond organ, bass and bass pedals support the beautiful melodies of the synths and electric guitar. Not to mention those Mellotron flutes that give the song a wonderful climax. It's a lovely instrumental opener inspired by Swedisch folk music.
But this is just the beginning. The next song "Open Up Your Eyes" (5:43) is a real beauty. It has a classical opening with a church organ and vocals. Jon Sundberg provides this song with lead vocals. You will find beautiful (polyphonic) vocal melodies in this song. Real strings (violin, viola, cello) which are later complemented by Mellotron strings and synthesiser strings transport you to prog heaven. A fine melodic electric guitar solo completes it all.
"New Horizon" (7:09) was initially an instrumental track but has been given a new melody and vocals for this album. Jon Sundberg is again responsible for the lead vocals. After an initial section with fine strumming guitars and vocals, the band goes all out with fat synth parts, delicious bass and pedals and the most beautiful vocal lines. A lot of attention has been given to the polyphonic vocals and backing vocals on this album. If you listen carefully, there is also a small reference to the band Yes in this song.
"Rain Is Falling" (5:07) is actually the oldest song on this album as it was written back in 1985. It has been given a new arrangement. Göran Holmberg provides the lead vocals on this song. This gives even more variety in the vocal range. It has a fine opening with acoustic guitars and nice vocal melody lines. It is a beautiful ballad with a small nod to Rick Wakeman at the end.
"Nordic Light" (3:50) is a short and atmospheric instrumental track that reveals the influences of Steve Hackett.
The album concludes with the longest track called "Elements" (10:22). The lead vocals are jointly provided by Jon Sundberg and Göran Holmberg. In this track, especially in the guitar parts and the beautiful keyboard work, we hear again the reference to the band Yes. But these are respectful references included in their own melting pot of their own fresh take on the music of the 1970s. For instance, the vocals sometimes sound more like a reference to AOR music. This song had me thinking of the music of the band Kansas at one point. This is also the strong point of the band's music. It has its origins but the music remains original and fresh sounding. Must confess that this long song does album wise have most Yes and/or The Flower Kings influences. But who cares, it's just delightful music.
"Elements" the third album from Sweden's Manticore is a little diamond that deserves to be discovered by a wider Prog audience. This self-recorded and produced album sounds fantastic and brims with love and respect for the progressive rock music we all love so much. A varied album with beautiful music and wonderful vocals. Therefore recommended by progVisions.
Your reviewer really enjoyed this album and requests that you pass on this knowledge ... to give the band a chance to reach a wider audience. Their beautiful music simply deserves this. More info: https://www.facebook.com/spaceplacestudio/